It’s hard to believe we are wrapping up another month. Even though we started out with 8 degrees wind chill, after today, I believe Spring will be in full gear, and we should have seven months before darkness descends again.
So, yesterday morning, as I usually do, I check my emails. Now, that used to mean loads and loads of messages that I would need to attend to, from all over. Nowadays, it’s more likely to be ads for Red Lobster, or invitations to stay at the Best Western in Aberdeen – not quite on my radar. Anyway, I clear them out, and then clear out the spam folder which usually has over 200 worthless emails, and then delete the delete, and finally it feels like I have a “clean” computer again – at least for the next hour or so, when I have to do it all over again. I remember back twenty years ago, when I first dealt with emails, that I got a message from the server or somebody that my whatever it was had gotten filled to capacity. I think I had a total of 500 emails, most of them in my delete file.. the program couldn’t take anymore. Those were the days. It was also more likely that I might receive an actual letter in an envelope with a stamp on it. Not so much today.
As I was checking my emails, however, I noticed that I had actually received on from the conference communications director. I don’t think I had heard from her in eight months or so. I first thought it might be a wrong address. But no – it was from her, to me, and she explained that a certain family from one of the cities I had served as superintendent wanted to speak with me. Now, these folks were not from any church – they were, how do you say, “pains in the neck.” One of their clan, a particularly pernicious individual, had perhaps ten or more years ago given to one of the churches both a set of metal wall hangings, and a gift of money, presumably as a memorial to a wife or a sister (or maybe both…). When I had finally gotten involved, it was at the point that the individual – not a church member – was no longer pleased with the church and the pastor, for some reason, and so he demanded the memorial wall thingies be returned to him. My counsel to the pastor was to go ahead and get rid of the problem. Then the fellow came back – after ten years – and demanded the gift of money also be returned.
Now, I don’t know about you, but most churches I know are not savings and loan institutions. I used to tell folks, when they would ask how much the church needed of their money, that we need all of it! The resources given to a church usually have a pretty quick turnaround for mission and charity. Of course, that was the case with this church as well. My advice to the pastor was to politely tell the fellow that the wall hangings could simply be taken off the wall and given back to him, but that the funds he gave – as a gift – had no strings attached, and had already been used in ministry long ago.
Well, this went on for a while, and then I seem to recall the fellow had a stroke, and the battle ended. And then I retired.
Anyway, the director was emailing me to tell me that the family had reared its head once more – now that both the pastor the superintendent had changed – and they were demanding from the director my contact information. Do you ever want to give someone four hours away a hug? The director simply wrote to tell me she had deleted my contact info from the conference directory, and all was well. My reply was a great word of thanks, and to also proclaim, “It’s not my job anymore!” That’s why I retired…
I went on to pursue my normal morning computer stuff, when another email popped up. This one was from a former fellow superintendent, who wrote to tell me that a church on his district wanted to get in touch with the conference Parliamentarian, and he have them my contact info. I have to tell you, after years of experience, that when a church out of the blue wants to talk with a conference leader – especially asking for the parliamentarian – it’s not good. Not at all. 999 times out of a 1000, they have come up with some action that they want to take that promises to be earth-quaking and very thorny. It happened all the time when I was on the job. I used to call it, “Churches and Pastors misbehaving…”
Now, as they say, my momma didn’t raise no fool, because seconds after getting the email from my colleague, I wrote him back, and shared that, indeed, for a number years I enjoyed the role of telling the bishop and the conference what to do – at least in terms of parliamentary procedure – but, I was clear to state, my name tied to that position ended the day I retired, way last July, and it would be up to the new bishop to name/invite somebody else to take on the role, but it wouldn’t be me. It was even more important that I made that statement, because five minutes after I sent that email out, my cell phone rang with the individual who wanted me to get involved in some convoluted process from their church that would involve the conference. The church, although very nice normally, had been appointed a new pastor last year, who, as some pastors are, believed completely in his own knowledge and wisdom and insight, and so most likely had stirred up the church to do something that very well could be “ill-advised.” All that being the case, I didn’t answer the phone and I deleted the message, knowing that my colleague would correct the information. I didn’t write, but I could have, “It’s not my job anymore!”
Now, I wasn’t being mean, or trying to be – but I have lived a pretty blissful past year apart from the burdens of the office I used to hold, or the job I used to have to do. I didn’t hate it, but once it was done, I found myself, as I do today, saying out loud, “Boy – I really don’t miss that headache, or those unresolved situations or unmet expectations.” By the way, the presence of those two conditions are the purest and cleanest set up for stress in life. If you are living with things unsolved, and under expectations that you can’t meet, I guarantee that you will often see the middle of the night, and end up taking antacids and Advils on a regular basis.
Not me – at least not in this area. I thank God for the intentional choices I have made and continue to make, which keep me from being pulled like a tractor beam into things I no longer have the authority, or the desire to try to fix. I offer blessings to the ones that followed me, and the ones that will follow them as well – but frankly, I’d rather spend time with you, and in whipping up a big mess of jambalaya tonight for supper! And don’t forget this afternoon’s nap…
Thought for the day: (I just like the balance this gives our minds…) If you expect the world to be fair with you, because you are a fair person, you are fooling yourself. That’s like expecting the lion not to eat you because you didn’t eat him.
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.